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Pleasantdale Principal Pollara Shares Memories of Her Father on Veterans Day

Cynthia Cumming

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 • 7:41pm

WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange Public Schools always hold a special event or ceremony in recognition of Veterans Day, and on Nov. 11, Pleasantdale Elementary Principal Dr. Joanne Pollara provided students with a personal story of her father, a World War II Veteran.

Dr. Pollara's dad was Ralph F. Pollara. Pollara served as a Sergeant with the 315th Infantry of the U.S. Army Air Force.  He joined the service at the age of 19 after completing a year at Montclair State, where he was studying to be a teacher. He was assigned to teach aircraft recognition and served in Europe and Africa. 

Dr. Pollara went on to read a story she had written about her father, a WWII Veteran.  He had been  stationed in Italy during the war and in 1972, he, along with "Dr. Jo" and the rest of the family, traveled to Italy and met a family that owned the apartment building the army commandeered during the war. 

In an excerpt of from her Journal entry, Pollara wrote:

"We traveled to Naples to have dinner with the sisters and the grown son, now a doctor,  with whom my dad shared his chocolate candy.  As a young girl, I was amazed at how easily my father’s Italian came back to him. He never spoke anything but English at home. The events remembered, some filled with sadness and some filled with hope, were all so animated and detailed it was like they happened yesterday instead of almost thirty years earlier. 

The family viewed my dad as part of a group who came to liberate them from a dictator. But they did not spend a lot of time talking about that. Instead, they talked about the connections they made on a human level with one another- the candy, the meatballs and spaghetti, the extra blanket in the winter time.  In reality these people were grateful to my dad, but I could see that he felt the same.  The sisters’ kindness helped this one young American soldier through challenging times.

From this visit, I saw first hand that people everywhere are very much the same inside. We all need to feel safe, loved and needed.  I learned that acts of kindness big and small can be remembered decades later. I learned that those who are willing to stand up for freedom deserve our thanks.  Someone once said that this land will remain the land of the free only as long as it is the home of the brave."

Sgt. Pollara passed away in 2010.

The Veterans Day theme was also incorporated into the students' classes and activities throughout the day, including video tributes and letter writing to veterans; reading and writing Veterans Day poems; online searches; and patriotic music during music classes. Pleasantdale preschool students celebrated by creating patriotic hats with red, white and blue stars.  

 

 

 

 

 

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